Loud, threatening, and aggressive, Starred Up drags its audience into the depths of prison culture, and, like a newly-interred inmate, the only way for us to learn, is to observe. As a perpetual inward battle between good and evil rages, Starred Up‘s characters must navigate a perilous canon of prison etiquette and utter hopelessness.
Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) has been starred up. A youth so explosively vicious that he has been prematurely moved into an adult prison. Yet, director David Mackenzie does not introduce him this way. The Eric Love to whom we are introduced, politely follows all prison protocols while being checked in; walking slowly, doing as he is asked, and staying almost completely silent. It is only when he is “cornered” by another inmate (who was only trying to lend the sleeping Eric a lighter), that Eric’s volatility comes to light. Severely injuring the other prisoner, Eric is able to stop himself from killing when he notices the lighter in the unconscious man’s hand. He rushes him to the prison guards, who, understandably, misconstrue the situation, and order Eric to surrender. In a fit of terrifying, and well-rehearsed rage, Eric prepares for the barrage of officers, and inflicts maximum damage. Seeking only respect from his legal superiors, Eric reacts swiftly and ruthlessly in his quest for perceived dominance. His skewed sense of self and penchant for savagery seems a likely inheritance from his father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), a powerful and influential inmate in Eric’s new home. In uninterrupted contact with his father for the first time in his life, Eric grapples with his father’s influence while trying to adhere to the program laid-out by an unconventional prison psychologist.
Polish born Pawel Pawlikowski started his career in England, directing documentaries for the BBC. Transitioning to narrative films, Pawlikowski’s second feature, Last Resort garnered critical praise and earned him BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer. Continuing his trend of excellence, Pawlikowski’s most recent effort, Ida is a spectacularly beautiful meditation on cinematic form. Owing to some incredible cinematography by co-directors of photography Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal, Ida captures the intense isolation of Jews in 1960’s Poland using one of the most visually-profound means possible.
Quiet and precise, unassuming yet powerful, Let the Right One In moves much like that of its vampiric subject, and is a focused and refreshing take on the vampire narrative.
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a shy twelve-year-old boy living in an apartment complex with his mother, when a strange new tenant moves in next door. A habitual loner, Oskar spends much of his time outside, on a snow-covered jungle gym, where he first meets Eli (Lina Leandersson). As the two continue to meet at the “playground” they begin to bond over Oskar’s bullying and Eli’s quick solution to a Rubik’s Cube. When murders – coinciding with Eli’s arrival – start piling up, it is apparent that this young girl is more than she appears.
House on Haunted Hill is a delight of 1950’s horror, rife with campy performances, and a comical, murder mystery dinner premise.
Vincent Price uses his trademark voice as both narrator and host to a group of strangers picked to stay the night in a haunted house. Under the guise of a party for his third wife, Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), an eccentric millionaire, Frederick Loren (Price) has agreed to pay five people $10,000 if they survive the night. Loren is joined by an unlikely band, including a secretary at one of his many companies, an airline pilot, a professor of psychology, a journalist and the house’s drunkard owner. The haunting begins almost immediately, and progresses quickly to terror as the group tour the house. Leading to the horrible death of Mrs. Loren, the group becomes overcome with paranoia, placing blame on one another, and choosing to stay the night separately in their respective rooms. Each assuming that one in the group must be the murderer, the first man (or woman) to leave their room, is, therefore, the culprit. In classic horror film fashion, the disintegrated group becomes easy targets for the forces that be.